E-shepherd could thwart wild dogs

E-shepherd could thwart wild dogs


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University of New England researcher Dr Greg Falzon is developing a device to detect when wild dogs approach sheep flocks.

University of New England researcher Dr Greg Falzon is developing a device to detect when wild dogs approach sheep flocks.

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A LISTENING device which sends alerts to a mobile phone when wild dogs are near could give farmers the opportunity to thwart an attack.

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A LISTENING device which sends alerts to a mobile when wild dogs are near could give farmers the opportunity to thwart an attack, says Greg Falzon.

Having already developed facial recognition technology to monitor the movements of wild dogs, Dr Falzon is now developing a device which alerts farmers' mobile phones when wild dogs approach the area.

Dr Falzon, a computational science expert at the University of New England, Armidale, was awarded a Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture grant, supported by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), to pursue his research.

Work on ‘The Electronic Shepherd’ is already underway.

Within a year he will have developed a device with advanced computer software that can identify the sound of wild dogs, sudden stock movements and extensive bleating indicating attacks.

The device will send an alert to the producer’s mobile phone, giving them an opportunity to disrupt and intercept dog attacks.

“If a producer has a smart phone, they can expect to see an alert which gives the time, location and possibly even an audio recording of the event,” Dr Falzon said.

“Through its software, we can train the technology to detect virtually any type of noise we’re interested in ... (for example) to detect trucks, which would alert farmers to potential stock thefts.”

Dr Falzon, who grew up in Marlee, near Wingham on the NSW Mid North Coast, has a vendetta against wild dogs.

“In the hilly country back home we could hear them before we saw them,” he said, adding that he saw the carnage from attacks on numerous occasions.

He said if sheep producers could reliably detect dog attacks as they are occurring or just prior to an attack there could be an opportunity to thwart an attack at any hour.

In collaboration with the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre, Dr Falzon has previously developed the ‘Wild Dog Alert’ system, which is based on motion-activated camera technology, and a system to monitor the populations and movements of wild dogs through facial recognition technology.

Prototypes have been developed for these two projects, but more funding is needed to extensively test the technology.

“With more funding, we can test them on a range of different property types and move away from research and development and onto extension.”

A cost-benefit analysis of AWI’s investment into wild dog control from 2010 to 2013 showed an $8.60 return for every dollar invested.

The story E-shepherd could thwart wild dogs first appeared on Farm Online.

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